John Karolefski

Editor-in-Chief, CPGmatters

John Karolefski is the publisher and editor-in-chief of, a twice-monthly ezine that focuses on building brands through retail. He is also the executive director of the Shopper Technology Institute (STI), the only trade organization for providers of technologies and solutions that engage shoppers and analyze their behavior. STI produces and hosts the annual LEAD Marketing Conference which focuses on Loyalty, Engagement, Analytics and Digital applications.

Karolefski, the former senior editor of Supermarket News, is the co-author of three books: “Consumer-Centric Category Management,” “All About Sampling and Demonstrations,” and “TARGET 2000: The Rising Ride of TechnoMarketing.”

  • Posted on: 06/05/2020

    The face mask rule is now simply a suggestion at some H-E-B stores

    If a marketplace is a hot spot for COVID-19, grocers should impose a mandatory mask policy. In all other places, masks should be encouraged, but optional. It's that simple.
  • Posted on: 06/02/2020

    Will dollar stores be the biggest post-COVID-19 winners?

    A recession, the pandemic and widespread unemployment make for a perfect storm for the success of dollar stores. It's that simple.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2020

    Is it safe to bring back food sampling?

    In-store sampling has always been a shopper favorite. But it is too soon to bring back this promotion. First, there is the issue of masks. Are shoppers supposed to remove masks to sample and then put the mask on? Then there is the issue of cautious shoppers wondering if sampling food and drink is safe since the coronavirus has not yet been vanquished. More time has to pass before sampling becomes viable and valuable again.
  • Posted on: 05/07/2020

    Is curbside pickup just getting started?

    Some of the shoppers who tried curbside during the pandemic will stay with it after the virus is vanquished due to the convenience factor. But most will not because of several issues: frequent "substitutions" of ordered products (were they not in stock or the buyer couldn't find them); products whose "use by" date is too close to the ordering day; spotty service; picked produce doesn't look attractive enough, etc.
  • Posted on: 05/06/2020

    Will COVID-19 turn us into a society of health nuts?

    It depends. Take the folks who are loading up on comfort foods such as pizza, snacks and alcohol during the pandemic -- and there are many of them. Will they focus more on health and wellness after the virus is vanquished? No, they won't. Meanwhile, folks who value health and wellness will eat and drink responsibly during the pandemic. Afterwards, they will become even more of a "health nut"? (A term I personally find offensive, by the way.)
  • Posted on: 05/05/2020

    Kristin’s farm-to-consumer model fills in food supply gaps at a critical time

    Direct-to-consumer orders are increasing during the pandemic for all the reasons mentioned in previous posts. That is not surprising. The real challenge is maintaining that level of sales or increasing them after the virus is vanquished. Only smart operators who have mastered the fundamentals and can meet shopper expectations will prosper.
  • Posted on: 05/04/2020

    Should face masks be mandatory for shoppers?

    For the time being, all store employees should wear masks and all shoppers should have to do the same. Why take chances? Those shoppers who don't want masks can pick up groceries curb-side. If shoppers refuse to social distance in the store, security should escort them out. Is that too tough? Who cares?
  • Posted on: 04/27/2020

    Can grocers help sit-down restaurants stay afloat with to-go meal programs?

    This is a great partnership that will help restaurants. More than 8 million restaurant employees have been laid off or furloughed since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. So maybe this partnership could work both ways. In Germany, Aldi Sud and Aldi Nord made a staff-sharing deal with McDonald's. Workers from the burger chain are being redeployed to work in the grocery stores during the pandemic. Stores need help, too.
  • Posted on: 04/23/2020

    Should grocers close their doors to customers for safety’s sake?

    We are at the point when governors are opening up their states so the economy can slowly rebound. That means restaurants, some stores, etc. This is not the time to close supermarkets to foot traffic. Cutting off easy access to food might spark civil unrest. The most sensible solution being tried by some grocers is to limit the number of customers in the store at one time. All shoppers must wear masks or they do not enter. These measures ensure social distancing to some degree and may reduce exposure.
  • Posted on: 04/17/2020

    Some customers play bait and zero tip tricks on Instacart shoppers

    I agree that a lifetime ban for these shoppers is appropriate because their behavior is awful. Anything else? Yes. The Grocery Gods will not be happy. What goes around comes around.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2020

    Do brands have an obligation to fight the coronavirus?

    Many major CPG brands have contributed millions of dollars to those in need during the pandemic. Some have contributed food and drink to low-income families. Those receiving aid will not -- and should not -- forget which brands helped them when it mattered most.
  • Posted on: 04/07/2020

    Pre-bagged produce proves popular during pandemic

    Pre-bagged produce will continue to be popular after the virus is vanquished. In fact, it may become the norm if Covid-19 turns out to be a seasonal flu. Why? Too many hands touch produce in the store -- workers stocking the shelves, customers looking for bruises on fruit, customers coughing and sneezing in the vicinity of produce. Not many shoppers will want to take any chances, especially the elderly and at-risk folks.
  • Posted on: 04/01/2020

    Will socially distanced shopping launch robot delivery for the masses?

    If the cost is not excessive and current tests are successful, robots will be part of the mix for delivering groceries after the pandemic. More curb-side pick up will continue to take place, too. A new normal is being created.
  • Posted on: 03/30/2020

    Is Kroger’s pick-up only store a solution for grocers now and in the future?

    No amount of cleaning will make any supermarket "virus free," but it can greatly minimize the chance of infecting shoppers. It's interesting to note that Austria has mandated that all grocery shoppers wear masks that the store distributes at the entrance. And they clean their stores thoroughly as well. A store dedicated to curbside pick-up of groceries is a smart move for the short term, but it won't be so for the long term. However, I predict that curbside pick-up will increase in frequency once the virus is vanquished. More shoppers who tried it during the pandemic will simply like the convenience and use this option more often.
  • Posted on: 03/26/2020

    Should retail associates be treated like frontline health responders?

    Absolutely. Some chains have increased pay for these retail associates who, thank goodness, continue to staff grocery stores. Plexiglass between cashiers and customers is a good idea. I would recommend plexiglass also at the customer service desk and the pharmacy counter. Having associates who work the produce department wear latex gloves and maybe masks may seem extreme, but would send a safety signal to shoppers.

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